A Smart Home System Throwdown: Lowe’s Iris vs. AT&T Digital Life

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With the Home Automation market continuing to make inroads into the consumer technology mainstream, many companies of all sizes are now getting in the game. As one of the nation’s top home improvement retailers, it stands to reason that Lowe’s would offer their own Home Security product, known as Iris. The telecommunications giant, AT&T also entered this growing market in 2013, with its Digital Life system aimed at consumers interested in their own HA setup.

So what smart home system makes the most sense for your modern digital residence? Both systems have their pluses and minuses, and depending how much you like to tinker, going the DIY route might be your best bet. For now, let’s take a closer look at these two options from Lowe’s and AT&T.

Lowe’s Iris Home Monitoring System Offers Ease of Use

The Iris Home Monitoring System from Lowe’s includes a host of the typical devices found in any Home Automation setup — lights, sensors, alarms, locks, and more — all controllable from your smartphone, tablet, or a web browser on your desktop computer. Like most other HA systems, the devices communicate with a hub that attaches to the router on your home’s wireless network. An optional hub extender increases its range which may be necessary in larger homes.

Lowe’s offers three different starter kits to make your initial foray into Home Automation an easier process; all include a few devices plus the system hub. The “Safe and Secure Kit” focuses on Home Security functionality for a price of $179, while the “Comfort and Control Kit” offers basic Home Automation features at the same cost. The “Smart Kit” combines all the devices from the other two kits at one price of $299.

If you want to expand your Iris smart home system, Lowe’s offers a wide range of additional devices — including some from third-party manufacturers. One controversial aspect of Iris is the $9.99 monthly fee for its premium tier, which is required to get most of the functionality out of the system. While monthly fees are to be expected with larger Home Security setups that offer 24/7 professional monitoring, that feature is not part of the Iris premium tier. Consider that extra cost when comparing Home Automation systems.

AT&T Digital Life offers Professional 24/7 Monitoring as Part of its System

Digital Life from AT&T is a robust Home Automation and Home Security system the telecommunications giant began offering a few years ago. This smart home system is currently available in 82 metro areas across the United States, so you’ll need to check first to see if you are able to get it in your location. Not surprisingly, a Digital Life system includes a variety HA devices that communicate with a hub attached to your home’s wireless router; you are also able to control the system and receive alerts using your mobile device or home computer.

AT&T also offers starter packages that make your initial HA setup an easier task. The company recommends the Smart Security Plus Automation package which retails for $299 with a $54.97 monthly fee that includes 24/7 professional monitoring, unlike Lowe’s Iris. A two-year contract is also required as part of the deal, and you will be subjected to an early termination fee if you subsequently decide that Digital Life isn’t worth the expenditure.

Other Digital Life options add functionality to the system while also increasing the monthly fee. These include water detection and control as well as an energy package to help optimize your home’s energy usage through the smart control of your HVAC system and small appliances. These extra features can add a few hundred dollars to your initial system outlay and increase your monthly fee.

Ultimately, the choice between Lowe’s Iris and AT&T Digital Life depends on how much 24/7 professional monitoring is worth to you, and if Digital Life is available in your area. Sure, that level of monitoring provides an extra sense of security, but it comes at a monthly cost rivaling an inexpensive Cable TV service. Iris doesn’t include professional monitoring in its smaller monthly fee, and you are able to piece together a DIY Home Automation system with a similar level of functionality as Iris without any extra monthly fees.

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